Becoming a Family of Three

When Evelyn was born, we became a family of three.  It was such a magical time, as it is for many families.  An adorable, wrinkly little being enters the world and a mother is born, a father is born, a family is born.  Despite the fact that I had to travel a long, hard road to motherhood, once I finally did get pregnant, I was certain that we would have another baby in the future.  I carefully chose all of our baby items to be gender neutral, so that they could be used again, regardless of whether we had boys, girls, or one of each.  Several hours after giving birth, I was already talking about the “next time” and the nurses teased me, since apparently most women are a little too traumatized to start talking about having another baby so soon.  I never had any doubt that we would have another baby.  When Michael and I discussed the future, I always referred to “our kids” because I knew that another one would be joining us eventually.  We were a family of three, but in my mind, that was only a temporary situation.  We would eventually be a family of four.

Three of Us

 

Once I got pregnant, I naively believed that it would be a snap to get pregnant again.  And actually, it was.  I’ve been pregnant four times since Evelyn was born, but we’re still a family of three…and the difference now is that I’m pretty sure we always will be.  Two chemical pregnancies and two miscarriages kind of left us worse for the wear.  After our last miscarriage at 16 weeks, I was pretty sure that it was time to just let go of the idea of another child.  We were so weary from the losses and just not sure if we could go through it all again.  We are both getting older.  Can you believe the medical term is ‘elderly’?  I seriously thought my OB was teasing me when he used that word. Physically, I am not what I used to be.

I think for most women the decision to be done having babies is huge, whether you have one or fifteen.  It’s hard to close that door forever, even if you think your family is complete.  Unfortunately for some, there is no choice in the matter.  For me, it’s been a process.  At first, I was really mad at the idea of leaving my childbearing years behind after such a negative experience.  I didn’t want my last memories of pregnancy and child birth to be so painful and traumatic.  I also didn’t want to go through another loss.  I started by getting rid of all the baby things.  It was so hard.  I still had ‘what if?’ in my mind.  But my mom and Michael gently reminded me that I could always get more baby things if I needed them.  So, I had a yard sale.  I cried when I went through all of Evelyn’s things.  I cried in my car when I met with ladies to sell her cloth diapers.  I cried a lot.

I worried about Evelyn being an only child.  In many ways, I think I wanted to have another baby more for her than for myself.  Michael and I both come from big families, so the thought of an only child was totally foreign to me.  I don’t want her to be alone in this big, bad world once her dad and I are gone.  I talked to a good friend of mine and read lots of blog posts about the experience of being an only.  I started to see all the positives that can come with that.

As I was slowly coming to acceptance over the idea of an only child, I was also still very much mourning the loss of our son, our last pregnancy.  It was very conflicting to start to feel happy and relieved about the idea of being done having children while I was still so sad over our loss.  At times I felt that if I let the happiness creep in, it was like saying that I never wanted my son in the first place.  I’ve been having to learn how to separate the two experiences and it’s still difficult sometimes.  But, I am slowly coming to a place of acceptance.

So, instead of becoming a family of four, we’re becoming a family of three all over again.  I’m kind of getting used to the idea.  I know we will be able to do a lot of cool things as a family that we might not be able to do as easily if we had more children.  I know that Evelyn will be okay.  I know that our family is not in a position to be starting over with a new baby right now and I am not sure we ever will be.  I suppose that if God decides to add another child (or children) to our family, I am open to that idea, but we are not actively pursuing it.  For now, I am just focusing on contentment, and it feels pretty good.

Thoughts on a Missed Due Date

fly

I typically don’t waste a lot of time thinking about what might have been.  The past is in the past and I tend to believe that the things that have happened, both good and bad, have taught me a lot about myself, about life, and about how things should be.  I take what I need from those lessons and I don’t dwell a lot on the coulda, shoulda, woulda.

But, when you lose a pregnancy, you can’t help but think about the should-have-beens.

I should be feeling my baby move all over the place.

I should have been preparing the nursery by now.

My belly should be watermelon-sized and I should have a hospital bag packed.

I should have planted more in our garden this year, but since I was anticipating being pregnant this summer, I didn’t.

I shouldn’t be dreading August 20…but I am.

That’s the day (give or take a few) that we would have welcomed our little boy into the world.  Evelyn would have become a big sister. Instead, he was born 24 weeks early.  The baby things have been sold, the nursery is a storage room for the time being, and I’m still hanging on to the weight that I gained in the first trimester….a constant reminder, like my body won’t let go of what it already lost.

How does anybody cope with a due date after a pregnancy loss?  I don’t know.  I’m not even sure how to write this.  I am still getting through it.  In a way, I will be glad when it passes.  It feels a bit like the last mountain to climb before I can work my way back to normalcy.  It also feels like losing him all over again. So far, it’s just been best for me to let the feelings come, experience them, acknowledge them, honor them.  They are what I have of my son….the should-have-beens.

I am grateful that Michael’s vacation time will coincide with the date and several weeks ago, I suggested we take a long trip.  Yep, I’m running away from it….away from all the things that remind me of what should have been.  I guess I didn’t have my head on straight when we planned the return trip because on August 20, the day I should have been holding my son, I will be sitting in a car for 12 hours, with nothing but time to think about it.  Maybe that’s a good thing.  I don’t know.  I guess we all just muddle through this life and try to figure it out as we go.  At least that’s the way I do it.

I’m hoping not to live in the should-have-been for too much longer.  “Should have been” suggests that the world owes us something.  It does not.  We are not owed or guaranteed a single thing.  I think about this when I try to figure out how we might honor our son each year.  I don’t know how we will do it, but I do know when I’d like to do it and it won’t be on August 20.  In the time that it’s taken me to write this, I have realized that I do have more of my son than the should-have-beens.  I have what actually was.  I still gave birth to him.  I still got to hold him.  Not many women who have miscarried get to say that.  Sure, there have been times when the memory of those moments with him made this loss much more painful than my previous miscarriages. But, I’d much rather honor him on the day he was born rather than the day he should have been.

That seems like a huge step, right?  Accepting what was instead of wishing for what should have been?  I’ll keep working on it.  One day at a time.

 

Our Life Since Then (Surviving a Miscarriage)

surviving

It’s been about a month since we lost our son and I can’t say that I am an expert on recovering from miscarriage, but I am at least feeling better and finding ways to move forward. This kind of loss is so personal and I think everyone handles it differently, but I wanted to share some things that have helped me so far because I know that overwhelming feeling that comes in waves…”How am I going to get through this?”

The first week was the hardest, but fortunately, Michael was home with me and we were able to just grieve together and to allow ourselves to feel whatever we were feeling.  We had a few “normal” moments, but for the most part, we struggled.  After about a week, I wrote about my experience and posted it here.  That was very cathartic for me and I feel like a weight lifted after that. We are very fortunate to have a lot of amazing people around us (and far away) who showered us with phone calls, flowers, gifts, food, prayers and love. It was so comforting to be able to lean on the people we love. For me, it has also been helpful to seek out others who have been in the same situation.  I joined a facebook group and some online forums that are specifically for parents who have experienced loss.  There is something very healing about being able to share your experience with someone who knows your pain and it’s even more healing to be able to offer encouragement to others as they are going through their darkest hours.

One of the biggest realizations I had during both of my miscarriages was just how precious my daughter is to me.  When I found out I was pregnant with her, it felt like a miracle.  I had tried for so long and had been through so much before she came along.  It almost seemed selfish to hope or ask for another child, but we always thought we would have another one and really wanted Evelyn to have a sibling.  We were very intentional, right from the beginning, about the items we purchased (everything gender neutral) and the way we set up the nursery.  We had always anticipated that there would be one more.  But, after two losses, back to back, we are just not sure if we will continue to try to expand our family.  We aren’t ready to take any permanent measures of prevention, but we are definitely planning to take time to heal from this loss and weigh the pros and cons of trying again…or not. As much as I wanted another child, I have always felt that if I only ever had Evelyn, that would be enough for me.  I don’t want the weight of this loss to impact my relationship with her, so I am doing my best to maintain life as usual.  April has been full of Easter preparations and trying to enjoy the warmer weather.  I’m taking pictures again…I know that sounds weird, but I used to take so many pictures of Evelyn and over the past 6 months, I had just kind of stopped.  For me, that’s a sure sign that something is wrong.  I decided it’s time to take pictures again, to experience life as it happens and to really appreciate all that I have.

Keeping the faith has been a priority for me.  I have been down some very difficult roads before and I recognize that these are the times to draw close to God and grow in Him. The first week after we lost our baby was hard. Really hard. On a cerebral level, I knew all the things that people say to be true.  It happened for a reason. God had a plan and would use the situation for good.  But, I was mad at Him. I needed to be mad at Him for a period of time.  Despite my anger with God, I didn’t run away from Him.  I went to church on Sunday, two days after I got out of the hospital.  I started reading some devotionals that centered around grief and loss.  I prayed…constantly. I talked to God and told Him about every fear, every regret, every pain.  I asked Him why, over and over. I still do from time to time. I know that God can use this situation for good in my life and that He can use my experience to help other people. I don’t know what that will look like just yet, but I pray about it every day.

There was never any doubt that we would have to find a way to honor our baby.  He was real to us, our child, not just a fetus…whatever that means.  We got to see him and hold him.  We dreamed about who he would be and how he would complete our family. I had just begun to feel movement in my belly and we took pictures of him when he was born.  We had named him and talked to our daughter about all the cool things she would do with her little brother. The hospital staff who worked with us were incredible and they gave us a box which contained all kinds of keepsakes, a tiny blanket and hat, poems, a necklace and other items.  We added our ultrasound photos, pictures that we took, the little outfit I bought when I found out we were having a boy and, eventually, we will add the tiny urn that holds his ashes.

flying home

I am also planning to dedicate a little section of our garden to the angels we have lost.  Some friends of mine put together a gift basket for us and it contained some seeds and a decorative stone, so I am excited to get started on that as the weather warms up.  I also ordered this adorable necklace, as a way to represent our family of angels, both here on earth and in heaven.

17092794791_21024b39e8_z

Several months ago, when we were caught in the throes of an endless winter, we reserved a little cabin for a weekend getaway in the woods. Our weekend is coming up soon and it has been nice to have something to look forward to. It will be nice to get away from our familiar surroundings, go hiking, enjoy the outdoors, sit by the fire at night, play games, and cut ourselves off from our cell phones and Netflix. We’ve also been thinking a lot about some day trips that we can take with Evelyn this summer and possibly a getaway for just Michael and me around the time of our anniversary. It’s helpful to be able to think about the future in a positive way instead of always dwelling on what could have been.

I know that there will still be difficult days ahead and that healing happens moment to moment.  So, I think one of the most important things to do, if you are faced with loss, is to just give yourself time.  Don’t expect to feel better tomorrow, or next week, or next month, but know that you will feel better, in your own time.  As I have talked with friends who have been through miscarriage, we have been able to say that we are better, stronger people for having known and lost our angels.  If you are going through this now, take heart. We will never forget, but slowly, it does get easier.

Our Second Trimester Loss

***Please, if you are currently pregnant or have suffered a pregnancy loss, please be aware that this post may contain painful triggers or graphic details that may be upsetting or distressful.  Please feel free to skip this post.  My intention is to remember this time and to grieve in my own way so that I can begin to heal and move forward.  I also think it is important to share stories of loss, so that others who are traveling the same road can feel less alone.  It is not my intention to upset my readers or to cause anyone pain or distress.  Much love, Carrie***

Photo credit: Bart Heird / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND
Photo credit: Bart Heird / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Since my miscarriage in October, a darkness has taken up residency here.  I had hoped that my most recent pregnancy would bring some light to my world (and to this blog) once again.

My second trimester started with an ultrasound around 13 weeks.  Everything looked normal, although the baby wasn’t very active and the ultrasound technician wasn’t able to get the measurements he needed to complete the screening for chromosomal abnormalities.  So instead, they offered me a blood test that would screen for the same issues and would give me the added bonus of knowing the baby’s gender well before my 20 week ultrasound.  Once we had that ultrasound in hand and had heard the heartbeat once more, I felt comfortable sharing our good news with the world at large (aka, my facebook community).  This was the week before Valentine’s Day.

In the week to follow, I had my blood drawn for the test, and about 1 week later, I received a phone call from my OB’s office.  They called to share the good news that the baby was at low risk for chromosomal abnormalities and the surprising news that we were expecting a BOY!  I was completely taken aback because I was pretty convinced that we were having another girl, but I was happy just the same and I knew that Michael would be elated.  I ran out to the store that day to buy a cute little boy outfit and some bibs, wrapped them up, and gave them to him as a way of sharing the good news.  We were so very excited and even though Evelyn was in denial for a few days (she was convinced that she wanted a sister), she came around to the idea that she would have a little brother.  Michael had told me in our early days of dating that if he ever had a son, the baby would be named after his father and his oldest brother, who shared the same name and who had both passed on years before.  So, we already knew what we would call him and Evelyn was excited to help us decide what his nickname would be.  She started telling everyone about the baby in mom’s belly named Robbie.  So, shortly thereafter, I shared the good news once again.

By this time, I was about 15 weeks pregnant and was finally starting to feel better after months of being sick.  But then I got sick once more with the 24 hour stomach bug.  Finally, on a Thursday, I woke up in the wee hours of the morning, starting to feel better again.  I put my hand to my belly and was overcome by the “feeling” of not being pregnant anymore.  At the moment, I brushed it off as just a silly paranoid feeling, but now looking back, I believe that was the moment my baby boy’s heart stopped beating.  I was exactly 16 weeks pregnant.  I guess it was that moment in the middle of the night that prompted me to pull out the fetal heart monitor that my friend gave me to use.  I never had one with Evelyn and I had only used it a few times to hear his little heartbeat for a few seconds at a time.  But this time I couldn’t find his heartbeat at all.  I tried again a little later and still couldn’t find it.  I started to worry, but convinced myself that it was just a fluke and that my anterior placenta was probably blocking me from hearing him.  I tried again several times the following day and still couldn’t find anything. I was really starting to worry now and Michael suggested that I try to move my next doctor appointment up a little bit, so that I could have some reassurance.  So I was able to schedule my appointment for Tuesday instead of Wednesday and I just did my best to convince myself that everything was fine while I waited to see the doctor.

First thing on Tuesday morning, I went in to see the midwife.  I told her about my worries and she tried herself to find the heartbeat, but couldn’t find it either.   At this point, I kept telling myself that everything would turn out ok on the ultrasound.  She walked us to the ultrasound room and the technician put the wand on my belly.  Michael was trying to wrangle Evelyn, so he didn’t see most of what transpired.  But I knew right away that something wasn’t right.  When we had gone for our ultrasound at 8 weeks, the technician assured us instantly that the baby was there with a nice heartbeat.  This time, he didn’t say anything.  I knew.  I couldn’t see the baby moving on the screen and after a few seconds, I saw him look at the midwife and shake his head.  She frowned and looked at me whispering, “I’m so sorry.”  I couldn’t believe this was happening.  Part of me already knew that he was gone, but the rest of me didn’t want to believe it.  I got Michael’s attention and gave him the same head shake that told him the bad news.  I think we both wanted to just break down, but we had to keep it together for Evelyn.

Next, I met with the OB and he explained the next steps.  I could either have a D&E, which he said was not advised at this stage in the pregnancy, or I would have to be induced to deliver the baby.  There really didn’t seem like another choice.  The idea of waiting for a miscarriage to happen on it’s own seemed unthinkable and dangerous.  He told us to think about it, not to wait too long, and to call to schedule the induction when we were ready.

We actually tried to entertain ourselves for the rest of the day by taking Evelyn to visit her aunt, going out to lunch, and riding the carousel at the mall.  We didn’t have it in us to be cheerful around our daughter and the thought of going home just meant that we would probably break down.  I was scared.  I didn’t want to schedule this induction…ever.  But Michael had to go back to work in two days and suggested we schedule it for the next day so that he could be there with me.  I called later that day and we set it up for the following morning.  I tried to do some internet research to find out what this process would be like, but it was difficult to find any two stories that were similar.  I had no idea what to expect and lots of scary possibilities floating around in my head.  But the one thing that echoed through every account that I read was the importance of seeing and holding the baby and taking pictures, for closure and to aid the healing process.  Needless to say, I didn’t sleep very well that night.

At 7:30 the next morning we arrived at the hospital to start the process of delivering our baby.  My plan is to write a separate post about the medical aspects of this whole process, for those who are interested.  But I think for now it’s sufficient to say that the induction didn’t go as planned.  A process that was supposed to take 12-24 hours ended up taking 48 hours because the medication that they used for induction didn’t work on me.

During my stay in the hospital, I joked with the nurses, visited with family, and tried to be strong.  But in the moments that I was all alone, I cried for what I was about to lose…what I had already lost…the baby boy I would never rock, sing to, or nurse to sleep…the little brother that Evelyn would never see, never tattle on, and never teach to dance, as she once asked to do.

The waiting seemed endless.  My body just would not cooperate.  Michael and I spent time crying and laughing as we talked about all the people who were already holding Robbie in heaven and what each of them would teach him.

As I waited to deliver my baby, my fears vacillated between being scared to endure any pain and being afraid to actually see the baby when he came out.  I wanted to get it over with, but I was afraid of what I would endure and see.  I felt stuck, trapped.  At the end of the second day, I still had not made any progress with the medication.  The doctor started offering other options that were scary to me, but I started to feel like I didn’t have a choice.   If nothing else worked, I would have to have a D&E, and that meant I would never get to see and hold my baby.  I cried, prayed, and gave myself permission to let go.  I begged my body to let go of my son, so that I could say my goodbyes.

I agreed to try a different method to induce labor.  The doctor inserted a balloon device around my cervix and and  I settled in for my second night.  For the first time since I entered the hospital, I was relieved to finally feel pain.  I slept through the cramping and woke every three hours when the nurses came to deliver my medication.  Finally, around 4:30 am, I woke up to a severe cramp and then felt a “pop.”  Finally, some movement, but no baby yet.  I started to feel a lot more pain and requested some pain relief around 5am.  I think that the pain meds allowed my muscles to relax enough to just let everything go.  Finally, at 8:20am, I sat up in bed and felt my baby enter the world.

I was afraid to look, but had to confirm that the baby had arrived before I called the nurse.  I peeked under the blankets that covered my legs and saw his little body lying there.  I called the nurse and she and the OB came into the room.  As he examined our baby, the OB showed us how the umbilical cord was wrapped tightly around his neck and there was also a knot in the cord.  It was a relief to know that there was nobody to blame for his death.  While I was waiting to deliver, I wrestled with the idea that I might have done something to harm my baby.  Maybe it was something I ate, maybe it was the medication I took when I had the flu, maybe it was that one time I scooped the cat litter or drank those few sips of wine.  It is comforting to know that I had done nothing to cause this.  At the same time, it seems so unfair that there was nothing wrong with our little boy.  He was perfect. He died from a freak accident, in the place where he should have been safer than he would ever be on this earth.

The nurse wrapped him in a blanket and put a tiny hat on his head.  Then they left us so that we could have some time alone with our son.  We looked at him for a long time and cried.  We didn’t really exchange any words.  There was nothing to say.  Our beautiful, perfectly formed little boy was dead.  It felt strange to do it, but I took a few pictures.  I’m glad that I did, even if it’s hard to look at them now.  This was my one chance to hold my little boy’s hand…and his tiny hand looks just like Evelyn’s.

 

Because I had reached 16 weeks, we were told that we would have to take care of making arrangements for the baby’s body.  I was glad for this because I knew that it would be hard to just let him go and leave him at the hospital.  We live about a block away from a funeral home and when I called them to ask about our options, I was told that they would provide cremation free of charge.  It was such a blessing to discover that there would be no financial burden attached to the loss of our son.  Today we chose a heart shaped locket to contain his ashes and I feel so at peace about the fact that he will be at home with us.  I can’t even express how grateful I am that this part of the ordeal was so simple and handled with such compassion.

I have no idea where we go from here.  It’s been one week since we learned that our baby no longer had a heartbeat, but the wound is still so fresh and I don’t think that I will be ok for very long time.  I know that I have to be strong and keep going for Evelyn and for my marriage.  I know that Michael is grieving too and we have just been very gentle with one another over the past week.  As much as I would never wish this on anyone, it’s a comfort that I don’t have to go through it alone and I know that he understands my hurt because he is feeling it too. I know that God has a plan in all of this.  I know that my son is in a better place, but it’s going to be a long time before I can even begin to understand why this happened…and maybe I will never understand it at all.  But just like any child would, my son has profoundly changed me already.

 

6 basic tools for getting pregnant

getting pregnant

***This post contains affiliate links, which means that I can earn a small commission if you click a link and purchase the item.  Using these links for your purchase does not impact the price of the item.***

If you’re starting to think about trying to get pregnant or you’ve been trying for a few months, there are some things you can do to help the process and to learn more in general about your body and how it works.  Unfortunately, for many people, getting pregnant isn’t as simple as just “doing it.”  When you think about the odds and what has to happen in order for conception to occur, it’s a miracle any of us were even born.  But, you can increase your chances and maybe even help things along with a few simple tools.

When I first started trying to conceive (TTC) back in 2005, I enlisted the help of an online forum and learned a lot from the ladies there.  Here’s a list of some of the items I used most and that are commonly used by women who are TTC.

Taking Charge of Your Fertility
I’m just gonna start this list off with a bold statement.  Every woman should own this book.  Every single one.  Buy this book and then save it for your future daughter.  Whether you are trying to get pregnant or not, it’s full of information about how the female body works.  It teaches you how recognize signs of ovulation using 3 key indicators.  This is also great if you are trying to prevent pregnancy without the use of hormonal contraceptives.  It’s also just pretty cool to realize what’s going on in your body…or maybe I’m just a total nerd.  Also, you’ll learn in depth how to use the rest of the items on this list.  Are you getting the point?  Buy this book.

Basal Digital Thermometer
By taking your temperature every day at the same time, as soon as you wake, and before getting out of bed, you can track your body’s shift in temperature after ovulation.  A basal thermometer differs from a regular thermometer in that it can detect more subtle fluctuations in temperature, but I suppose a regular digital thermometer could work just as well, as long as you stick with the same thermometer throughout your cycle.  Unfortunately, you can’t really predict your ovulation day with the temperatures, but you can tell when you’ve ovulated after the fact and over the course of a few months, you will be able to detect patterns in your cycles (unless you’re wildly irregular like me).

Ovulation Predictor Kit
I only tried to use OPKs for a brief period of time, but they are pretty popular with many women who are TTC.  These look like a pregnancy test, but they detect leuteinizing hormone in you urine.  This hormone surges about 24 hours before ovulation, so by peeing on a stick every day starting around day 10 of your cycle, you can see the surge and know when to do the deed.

Fertility Friend
I love this site.  I started using it way back when I started TTC in 2005 and it’s like an old friend (no pun intended).  I briefly tried other sites and apps, but quickly went back to Fertility Friend.  I have years worth of data saved there.  It’s a free service that offers paid premium options.  They will occasionally treat your to a few days of premium service so you can try it out.  The software helps you to keep track of your cycles, daily temps, OPKS and other fertility signs.  It estimates your ovulation date, based on the information you enter and helps you to predict your next ovulation day.  It’s also a great resource for learning how to temp, chart, and use OPKs.

HPTs
When you are TTC, you will probably want to have some home pregnancy tests on hand.  Just a word of warning here…testing too early can be problematic and having easy access to pregnancy tests can be stressful.  After many months of trying and testing with no positive results, I decided it would be better to just wait for Aunt Flo to show up.  Having tests on hand was too tempting and seeing the blank white space staring back at me was too disappointing month after month.

Patience
Try not to panic if it doesn’t happen right away.  TTC can quickly get the best of otherwise sane and rational people (like me).  Be kind to yourself and your partner and read this.  Give it some time before seeking medical intervention…about a year if you’re healthy and under 35 and about 6 months if you are over 35.

Trying to get pregnant can be an emotional ride and it’s not always as easy as it seems like it should be.  It took me 6 years to get pregnant with my first and we’ve been trying for #2 for about 10 months now.  I go through phases of hardcore “trying” and other phases of just letting it go and hoping for the best.  After 2 chemical pregnancies, I am trying to just relax right now.

How long have you been TTC?  What tools do you use to help things along?

 

how changing my diet changed my fertility

While I was deep in the pit of infertility, I used to search the internet for success stories. I never really considered putting myself through a lot of medical testing and procedures to get pregnant. Not that there is anything wrong with that, it just wasn’t the path for me. I always figured it would be too expensive and that if I was meant to have a child, I would, interventions or not. I also felt that God intended me to learn something from the experience, even if I wasn’t exactly excited about learning whatever it was he was trying to teach me. So, I searched for stories of women who were able to get pregnant on their own. After awhile, I stopped looking. It was too painful to allow myself to hope that it might happen.

When my first marriage was in the beginning stages of its demise, after about 3 years of trying to conceive, I decided to finally see a doctor, mainly just to get some answers and find out if there was really anything wrong. I think it was also a last ditch effort to try to save my marriage. My doctor told me he thought I might be insulin resistant and prescribed a blood sugar regulating medication. He told me to try it for 3 months and if I wasn’t pregnant by then, we would move on to something else. The medication made me very sick to my stomach and things finally reached a point in my marriage that it was pointless for me to take it anyway. It was over. No baby and I had to start from square one.

Fast forward to a few years later. I was remarried to Michael and we also had been trying to conceive for close to 3 years with no luck. My ex had gone on to have 2 children after we divorced, so if there was ever any doubt that the problem was with me, it was laid to rest by then. I was broken…in more ways than one.

One day, I was online looking for a recipe. I had some odds and ends around the house that I wanted to use up, and was trying to find a yummy way to use them all together. I ended up on a recipe that I found on Mark’s Daily Apple. I started reading and I kept reading and reading. Mark’s site talked about the Primal diet and the many health benefits of eliminating grains, sugar, and processed foods from your diet.  It made sense to me.  It sparked something it me and I decided to give it a try.  I was tired of being sick and tired.  I was overweight, depressed, tired, and just done.

I’m an all or nothing kind of person when it comes to food.  I’m prone to be either super-strict on a diet or completely gluttonous and just let myself go.  I tried to ease my way into this new way of eating, but that only lasted for a day or two.  I needed to cut out all the bad stuff completely or not at all, so on day two or three I eliminated sugar, grains, and most processed foods from my diet.  I also stopped eating white potatoes, beans, and peanut products.  My main goal in making these changes was to lose weight and hopefully feel better but, as I read more about the benefits of eating this way, I started to wonder if it might improve my fertility.  I kept a journal of what I ate every day and started tracking my cycles again…just to see.  That was in mid-February.

A few days after starting the diet, I went to an acupuncturist to see if that could remedy the debilitating headaches that had plagued me for years.  I also secretly wondered if that might impact my fertility.  I had read that it could help, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up.  I didn’t want to be disappointed again.  The acupuncturist had me complete a lot of paperwork and asked me a lot of questions about my health.  He also came to the same conclusion that the fertility doctor had years ago.  Insulin resistance.  Pre-diabetic.  He advised me to eat more protein and fat and less carbs and starchy foods, something that I had already started to do. The treatment was wonderful and I wish I could have afforded to return on a regular basis.  But, I never went back.  I didn’t need to.  In mid-April, I started to feel “off”.  Even though I didn’t want to allow myself to hope, I started to wonder if I might be pregnant.  I started tracking my temps again and though it was late in my cycle, my temps were consistently high.  I decided to stop after work one day and buy a pregnancy test.  Part of me expected to see a blank white space staring back at me, but another part of me just knew.  Sure enough, two blue lines showed up on the test.  I couldn’t believe it, so I quickly used the other test that came in the 2-pack.  It was also positive.  I remember falling down on my knees and sobbing, thanking God for this miracle.  I never thought I would be able to have my own child…and finally…it was my time. After two months of following a Primal diet, I was pregnant.  And those debilitating headaches?  They were gone.

I often tell people that changing my diet helped me to get pregnant…and I believe that it did.  But I don’t want to dismiss God’s hand in all of this.  Like I said earlier, if it was His intention for me to get pregnant sooner, I would have.  My timeline wasn’t the same as His.  He had a lot of work to do in me first.  I had to let go of the demons of my past and start loving myself.  After the heart wrenching divorce and picking up the pieces again, I had finally stopped feeling sorry for myself and decided to take care of myself.  I had wallowed long enough.  I wanted to be healthy, physically and emotionally, regardless of whether or not I became a mom….and going Primal was part of that.

Seeing the impact of a Primal diet on my health made me certain that I wanted to stay Primal during my pregnancy and beyond.  I managed to do that for the most part.  I had occasional cheats, but I really did my best to stick with it and I still eat Primal most of the time.  With the holidays just winding down, I really need to get back to strict Primal, especially since we are trying for Baby #2.  🙂

I know that changing to a Primal diet isn’t the answer for everyone, but if you are struggling with unexplained infertility, PCOS, irregular menstrual cycles, or other hormonal imbalances, why not give it a try?  Fortunately, there is a lot of new research emerging that supports the idea that grains, sugar, and processed foods can really impact fertility, and I am so glad to see the information getting out there.  Here are just a few other sources for information on this.  You can also do a Google search for “paleo and fertility” or “primal and fertility” and find tons of stories from other women who got pregnant without any medical intervention, after changing their diet.

Is Wheat Making You Wait for Babies? by Dr. Kelly Brogan, M.D.

Primal Nutrition and Fertility by Mark Sisson

*Please note that I am not a doctor or nutritionist and I am only speaking from my own personal experience.

the other side of infertility

A lot of parents say that they can’t remember life before children. I am not one of those parents. I remember my pre-baby days very well.

I like to think it’s because I am an older parent and not because I spent so many years battling infertility. I had my first child at 34 years and Michael was 41. We had many years to travel, pursue our interests, come and go as we pleased, and become set in our ways. I can still taste the freedom of my life before children. There are moments when I miss it, even long for it…but I wouldn’t trade it. I would take the loss of freedom over the longing ache for a child any day of the week.

So, after many years of battling infertility, what does it feel like to be on the other side?

This has been a difficult post to write, not in the emotionally difficult sense, but difficult in that it is hard to describe the feelings that follow the birth of a baby after so many years of disappointment.

In many ways, the sting of infertility still remains. It’s not something that magically disappears after a baby is born. I think it will always be a part of me.  Along with that comes a certain amount of  “survivor’s guilt”, knowing that there are still so many out there who are struggling and who might never have a child.

I had a lot of misconceptions about mothers when I was TTC. I can remember thinking that people like present-day me just didn’t get it. I read a lot of inspirational books and articles and whenever I found out that the story teller had gone on to have children, I dismissed her as someone who just didn’t understand what it was really like to be so tormented by the inability to have children.

I can remember thinking that I would NEVER complain about pregnancy or nursing or a crying newborn because I would be so happy just to have that little person in my arms. I was full of judgement for women who easily got pregnant or complained about motherhood.

Didn’t they know how very blessed they were?!

How can she have 3, 4 or 5 children and I can’t even have one?

She doesn’t appreciate the children she has and she’s pregnant again? It’s so unfair.

I was even jealous of women who miscarried, because at least they knew what it was like to get a positive pregnancy test.  Terrible, right? I was full of jealousy and bitterness and not very lovely at all.  These days, pregnancy announcements still hit me like a ton of bricks sometimes.  It’s not because I am jealous anymore.  I have chalked it up to so many years of actually feeling jealous and angry and bitter, it’s just a gut reaction at this point.  But thankfully, that feeling usually disappears as quickly as it came.  Maybe it’s just a painful reminder of where I’ve been and I don’t want to go back to that place.

The truth is, pregnancy was hard. I tried to enjoy every fleeting moment, but sometimes those moments felt so looong. I whined. I complained. I probably made my poor husband crazy. I panicked when my daughter cried the entire first night home from the hospital. What had I gotten myself into? I felt guilty.  Mommy guilt magnified 1000 times. I had waited so long for this. Shouldn’t I be ecstatic about every ache and pain, every lost hour of sleep, every moment of attention that my little one demanded?  If I couldn’t be ecstatic, shouldn’t I at least suffer in silence and reflect on the beauty of sore boobs and Braxton Hicks?

I was not always ecstatic and Michael will tell you that I definitely did not suffer in silence.  You know why?  Because I’m human.  There were moments when I questioned myself for even bringing a child into this world.  It’s such a scary, evil place at times.  My body no longer belonged to me.  Everything I did had to be modified to accommodate this little person.  After Evelyn was born, I actually spent a lot of time feeling like the whole thing wasn’t real.  Like she wasn’t really mine and someone was going to come and get her and I would go back to living life as I knew it. There were foggy moments like that.   But one thing was for sure, life would never be the same.

I’ve come to realize that I can’t beat myself up for having those feelings.  I may have complained and questioned my decision to have a child, but I spent just as much time marveling in the miracle.  I fell in love with my growing belly.  I watched it bump and shift as she grew bigger and more active.  I soaked up every compliment and congratulations from every loved one and stranger.  I talked about it incessantly…sometimes I think the complaining was just an excuse to talk about my growing baby.

Part of me doesn’t want to write about the wonder of having a child.  I don’t want to add to the pain of someone who might be suffering and reading this.  But, if I’m being truthful and candid, I have to say that having a child has filled a little empty spot inside of me that I don’t think could have been filled by anything else in this earthly realm.  Does that mean I couldn’t have a fulfilling life if I never became a mom?  Of course not.

Becoming a mom has changed me in many ways.  I am more patient, more forgiving.  I’m happier overall….it’s hard not to be when you’re seeing the world through a child’s eyes.  My life is messier, more complicated.  I worry more.  I struggle to find balance. I have moments where I want to pull out my hair, but I wouldn’t trade it.  I am a mom, but a little part of me will always be infertile.

I can remember life before Evelyn, but I wouldn’t go back.